Monday, September 26, 2011

Adios, Peaches


It's that time of year: you never know which peach is going to be your last.

Or rather that's how it usually goes. But this year E. and I have put by about forty pounds of peaches in various states: frozen, canned in light syrup and lemon juice, dried, and pie. The pie lasted the least amount of time.


We got the peaches from Umass' Cold Spring Orchard, which calls itself "the orchard with a difference." What I found to be most different about it was how cheap the fruit was: $16 for a 22lb box of seconds. At that price, we would have been fools not to have spent several hot, sticky hours of precious weekend butchering mushy stone fruit.

In the past hundred years, preserving food has gone from being what you do if you don't want scurvy to what you do if you're a hipster with a wad of cash to blow at the green market and nothing better to do. One of the best parts of our peach session was a conversation about canning and privilege. Let's just say that there's a lot to unpack there, regardless of whether you're cold packing or hot packing.

Once upon a time, before the era of horrible, unripenable Chilean winter supermarket produce, you -- or someone who worked for you -- canned, dried, jellied and so forth so that you could eat something with fructose in it that wasn't an apple in February. Some people still do it like that, and I like to think that counts us. But for others canning has become something of a folksy indulgence. Remember, people were once embarrassed to eat lobster, and now look at its status. Could humble jam go the same way?

Which isn't to say that canning is right if you live in Arkansas and wrong if you live in Brooklyn, have a shaggy beard, tight jeans and a single-speed bike. It's to say that our relationship to food is like a serious glass of wine: protean, complex, and loaded.

The changing economic and geographic demographics of canners entails more than I can go into here, so let me try to sum up my stance. My wife and I canned, froze and dried a bunch of peaches. It made me feel a little bit like a pioneer and a little bit like a toady.

I could just buy cardboard peaches all year instead, but now I at least have the option of reaching back in time when I reach into my cupboard, grabbing a cool glass jar containing a taste of place, the substance of another season, suspended in a little sugar and lemon.

Besides, there is no improving the fresh peach. Except perhaps with peanut butter.

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47 comments:

Barbara D. said...

Hey, Aaron,
I always grieve the end of local peaches. . .

This year I started canning again - my daughter-in-law is from the former Soviet republic of Georgia and I have a recipe book that has all kinds of amazing pickles and sauces and other treats - and I remembered that you could can acid things using boiling-water processing.

So I've got jars of preserved little apples (sugar syrup + lemon juice), pickled finger-sized leeks (from Small Farm in Hudson Mass.), pickled roasted red peppers, and pickled garlic!

Also made some of the plum sauce used in Georgia like ketchup is here, but decided to eat that right away.
Yum!

Here's the book:
The Georgian Feast by Darra Goldstein

Lots of herbs (cilantro, dill, parsley) and they put walnuts in about half the recipes. The pureed beets (which I made with roasted sunflower seeds instead of walnuts due to a friend's allergy) were un-believe-able.

james said...

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Cherry said...

Great info here. Long time reader, first time poster....keep it up please!

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